How to Paint Furniture with Real Milk Paint

In this project I am going to cover the process of painting a piece of furniture with Real Milk Paint. If you want to watch the process on how I built this chair then that video is linked for you HERE.

Now of course I’ll be showing how to use Real Milk Paint to go on raw wood, but this will also stick to drywall stone, and unsealed brick and concrete. If you have a piece that has latex paint already on it, then the steps will be the same except you need to start with a a coat of Ultra Bond. You won’t need to get it back to bare wood but you should remove any peeling up bits.

I was heading to Nashville to help my friend Greg Pennington build a large porch. He is actually the master chair maker who taught me how to build this chair. Hee is very experienced with using Real Milk Paint and offered to show me the process. 

Let start off with product, I spent forever deciding on the color I wanted my chair because there are soooo many beautiful colors to pick from. However, I ended up going with Barn Red from the brand Real Milk Paint company.

Now in the chair making world, it’s traditional for chair makers to paint their chairs red first then black on top. This way, as spots naturally get wore down the red will slightly show through.

So I know painting it red and leaving it at that will causes traditionals to lower their brows but I’m happy with my decision. 

Real Milk Paint comes in powder form which means it doesn’t have a shelf life. It won’t go bad. To mix up the powder into a paint, it takes a 1 to 1 ratio of powder and water. Meaning you take a scoop of powder and add the exact same amount of water. Every container comes with a marble so you can drop it into your mixing container (here we’re using a washed out yogurt container) then add a drop of the anti foaming agent….then just shake it up.

After getting it a good rattle, you need to let it sit for at least 15 mins. With Real Milk Paint, you can’t let it sit for too long, but you can let it sit for too little. So just make sure has a least 15 mins to sit and mix together before you start to use it. 

While that’s setting up, I’m going to spend the time prepping my chair. Greg does this thing where he will tape off the underside of a chair so he has a spot to sign and date it. So I taped off a square then used a blade to cut some arches around each one of the legs.

By this time, it had been more than 15 mins so I went back to my paint and stirred the mixture by spinning that marble inside around in circles. You don’t need to go crazy, just a little bit, then it’s painting time. 

When painting, there is nothing crazy about the step. The main thing to watch out for is drips because if you try to paint it too heavy on one coat, and over look where it runs then it will form dried up tear streaks. They can be removed but it’s more work and it’s simple to avoid if you do light coats instead.

I would dip my paint brush, then use the edge of the container to wipe off some of the excess. Then of course be watchful as I was moving around and applying paint, that no area was getting too heavy and running. 

After getting everything on the bottom side of the chair, I then flipped it around and started painting the rest. While I’m doing that let me tell you a few features of Real Milk Paint that make them stand out. First, they have over 56 paint colors and focus on antique color palette, based on traditional furniture. It’s water based so it cleans up incredibly quick and easy. It’s  non toxic and no VOCs so painting inside is just fine. It also dries very fast, in just about 30 mins. 

It was morning when I applied my first coat of paint, then I let it sit all day while Greg and I worked on something else in his shop. Then that evening I quickly threw on another coat of paint, but I stopped at just two coats. It looked 100% covered so I moved on to buffing after that. Which isn’t that fun, but it’s necessary if you want a good looking finish. 

I used some very fine steel wool and went over the entire chair to take it from the very flat and chalky texture to more of a sheen finish. Don’t be afraid of pushing too hard as it does take some pressure to get it where it needs to be.

It might be hard to distinguish here in the footage but look at this front edge of the seat vs the side and the top. The top still look chalky and darker, whereas that front edge I buffed is lighter and has a shinyness in it.

I stopped after buffing half the seat so you could hopefully see the difference better. The right is the shine you’re going for, and the left is still waiting for me to tackle. 

Before moving on to the next step which is to apply a protective finish, I flipped the chair over and signed the bottom with my name and also the year I built it. : )

Ok now as I mentioned, it was time to apply a protective finish for me. However if you wanted a two tone paint color scheme like traditional chair makers do, then next you would apply the top color of your choice. But since I was sticking with the one, I moved on. 

Milk Paint is very easy to apply but needs some sort of top coat to be durable. Greg has his own custom mixture of mineral spirits, linseed oil, and spar varnish so that’s what I used. However if you don’t want to create your own, Real Milk Paint company sells a few options of protection top coats you can order with your paint.

For my finish, I used a chip brush and just slopped it on. Not really slopped, but definitely went heavier on it than I did with the painting step. And that’s because you don’t have to worry about runs here. You just want to hit the entire surface so it can absorb the finish.

Then any excess will get wiped away with a clean rag afterwards. Take your time on the wiping down step to make sure you don’t miss any areas, or it will dry with a different sheen than the rest of the chair.

After going over the entire piece, let it dry for 24 hours before applying another coat. However, before you sit it and forget it…..after your first wipe down, check on it after 10 mins or so and see if you need to give it another wipe down. Sometimes the surface will slowly spit out more finish after you’ve wiped it, and this also needs to be removed. If you check on it, and it doesn’t look like it has done that, then you’re good to forget it until the 24 hours has expired. 

So I put on two coats of paint then three coats of top coat. Since I had to wait 24 hours in between each coat, I would leave my chair out on the workbench then apply a new coat every morning before we got to work on Greg’s porch.

I would use the steel wool to quickly hit every surface of the chair, before applying another coat. This you don’t need to apply as much pressure as the buffing stage….you’re just removing any slightly raised particles that got into the finish and come through when you run your hand over it. It truly very simple, it takes less than 20 mins each coat.

I know a lot of woodworkers will automatically respond negatively when a piece of furniture is painted instead of stained or clear coated. But Greg is a master chair maker and paints most of his chairs with a red under coat and black top coat, as it’s the traditional Windsor chair style to do so. See a lot of chairs are made up of two or three different species of wood, each part of the chair focusing on utilizing a wood that suits it function or level of strength needed instead of making it all match. So if you’re about to leave me a comment (or probably already have) on how I shouldn’t have painted it in the first place….well there is simply nothing wrong with it. 

If you’re watching this video because you hav a piece of furniture you want to refinish or finish, then I hope this has helped you out. I wish you luck on picking out a color because there are so many beautiful ones, that is really is the hardest part of the process. Everything else is very straight forward and easy, so don’t put it off if it’s on your todo list. 

Be sure and watch the video to see the tutorial in much more detail!

Find Real Milk Paint here: https://bit.ly/2UhxRrl

Find Greg Pennington here: http://bit.ly/2P1dFYt

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One thought on “How to Paint Furniture with Real Milk Paint

  1. The chair looks amazing April, thanks for sharing the finishing process! 😍👌🏻🪑👍🏻👊🏻

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